Kyle Gibson set a season-high with 7.1 strong innings and the bullpen held on for dear life as the Minnesota Twins prevailed with a 6-5 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night at Target Field. What started out as a 6-0 lead in the eighth inning quickly snowballed into a one-run win, but the Twins managed to even the series with the rubber game looming on Sunday afternoon to wrap up the 1987 World Series reunion weekend.
“Gibby was really good,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I don’t know if you want to call it his best start or whatever, but we talk about strike percentage a lot when things aren’t going well. It might have been his best percentage of throwing it over and first-pitch strikes. It started waning late, but I still thought he had good stuff.”
Gibson tossed seven shutout innings before encountering some turbulence in the eighth. Andrew Romine opened the inning with a liner to Eddie Rosario in left, followed by a single from Jose Iglesias and a walk to Ian Kinsler. After a mound visit, former Twins outfielder Alex Presley poked his third hit of the day — a ground-rule double into the stands in foul territory in left — on the next pitch to give the Tigers their first run of the day, and chase Gibson to the showers.
“Physically, I felt like I was trying to find it the whole time really,” Gibson said. “Just in the pen. Something in like the third inning talking to Castro just didn’t feel too good either. He did a great job of getting me through that one and calling the right pitch at the right time. They took some swings and missed some pitches they’d probably normally hit. Thankfully it worked out that way for me, and the defense made some great plays.”
Lefty Taylor Rogers was brought in to help put out the fire, and did more to fan the flames instead. He gave up a booming home run off the left field foul pole to Justin Upton — the first batter he faced — to not only close the book on Gibson’s day, but also bring the Tigers to within two runs at 6-4.
Gibson finished with 7.1 innings, three earned runs, five hits, five strikeouts and three walks as he lowered his season ERA to 6.08.
The Twins offense wasted little time in jumping all over Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, and by the seventh inning had built a 6-0 lead off the righty as well as bullpen comrade Warwick Saupold. In the third, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer hit back-to-back-to-back one-out singles. Robbie Grossman followed with an RBI double and Rosario hit a sac fly to left to give the Twins a 3-0 lead.
The Twins added two more runs in the fourth as the first three Twins to bat in the inning reached on singles from Jason Castro and Brian Dozier and a walk to Kepler to load the bases. Sano followed with a sac fly and Mauer grounded into a fielder’s choice at short, with Dozier racing home on a throwing error by Kinsler to put the Twins up 5-0. The Twins tacked on the sixth run in the seventh off Saupold, as Eduardo Escobar, Zack Granite and Castro hit three straight singles to cap the scoring for the Twins on the night.
After allowing the first two Tigers to reach, Gibson settled down brilliantly. He retired Upton on a swinging strikeout and got a comebacker off the bat of Alex Avila to start a 1-6-3 double play, and from the first inning on got 18 outs from the next 18 batters he faced until Presley singled with two outs in the sixth inning. Gibson faced the minimum in the third, fourth and fifth innings and overall looked in command as he managed to get 11 swinging strikes on 102 pitches and threw first-pitch strikes to 19-of-29 hitters on the night.
In fact, Gibson threw first-pitch strikes to 11 batters in a row — from the last two batters in the second inning all the way through the fifth.
Things got a little thorny for the Twins in the eighth, however, as Brandon Kintzler was ultimately called on for his third save of at least four outs on the season, and his 27th of the season — one behind Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome for the AL lead.
“It turned in a hurry,” Molitor said. “A base hit and a walk, then Presley drops one down the line. Upton had a nice at-bat. I think he saw four curveballs in a row before he got a hold of one.”
After Rogers gave up the home run to Upton, pinch hitter James McCann followed with a double to deep left. McCann moved to third on a Nicholas Castellanos groundout and scored when Mikie Mahtook hit a grounder to third against Kintzler than Sano could not handle cleanly, as he threw errantly to Mauer to extend the inning and close the gap to 6-5.
Kintzler got some help from a friend to lead off the ninth inning, however. Iglesias rolled a grounder over the third base bag, but the carom was played perfectly by Rosario in left, who threw a one-hop strike to Dozier covering the bag.
To add insult to injury, not only was Iglesias out by a mile due to a dubious baserunning decision, but he was also tagged on the face. Kintzler bore down to get grounders from Kinsler and Presley to end the game, and move the Twins into a tie with the Kansas City Royals at 49-47 — 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians, who beat Toronto on a walk-off home run by Francisco Lindor in extra innings on Saturday.
“That was a big league save for Kintzler,” Molitor said. “That’s a tough one when momentum changes like that. You find a way off the field even when you don’t get a play behind you. So we’ll take the win. We’ll come back tomorrow, win another series and it’ll make for a decent homestand.”
- Gibson had not pitched into the eighth inning since Sept. 13, 2016 against Detroit.
- Sano (five games) and Dozier (eight games) each extended their hitting streaks.
- Presley accounted for three of Detroit’s eight hits on the night. Presley came over to the Twins on Aug. 31, 2013 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Justin Morneau trade, and hit .283/.336/.363 in 28 games with the team before being claimed on waivers by Houston over the offseason.
- Eighteen Twins batters reached base — 14 hits, four walks — but the team still managed to strand 11 runners despite going 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
- Saturday was the 30th game this season for the Twins with an attendance of over 30,000 — but just the 10th played at Target Field.
Fox Sports North has uploaded the entire pregame ceremony honoring the 1987 World Series team to YouTube. Enjoy!